With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up
What was your highlight of 2016?
The highlight was the three-part documentary The Prosecutors, shown on BBC 4 earlier this year, and how well it was received. It was filmed over 18 months with prosecutors in Merseyside, Cheshire and the South East, showing the day-to-day work of our prosecutors, and the complex case decisions they have to regularly undertake and review. The Guardian said it gave viewers a sense of people doing immensely important jobs with great diligence and sensitivity. This formed part of our ongoing work to explain to the public what the CPS does to deliver justice and make communities safer. This year also marked the 30th anniversary of the CPS – it has been a good opportunity to look back at how far we have come as an organisation.
What has been the most significant change in your department this year?
This year we set out our vision and priorities for the next four years called CPS 2020. It was developed by staff from all parts of the CPS. Our focus is on delivering justice through excellent casework quality, and ensuring the public has confidence that the CPS is fair, effective and independent. I want the CPS to be a place that is committed to supporting our staff, building strong partnerships across the criminal justice system and continuously improving how we work. People move in and out of organisations all the time so having fundamental values and a plan of action to make them a reality lets everyone know who we are and where we are going as an organisation.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
Delivering CPS 2020 across all our areas in England and Wales and engaging 6,000 members of staff to contribute is challenging, but it’s already happening through regular consultation and feedback. We’re also playing a big part in the digital transformation of the criminal justice system to make it more efficient with fewer court hearings and improving the quality of service to victims and witnesses. It’s early days but a recent report recognised that CPS staff were fully engaged with the new case handling system in crown courts and we’ll continue to make improvements in 2017.
What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
Best – jewellery from my husband.
Worst – jewellery from my husband!
More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017